For everything you need to know about all the Festivals visit www.list.co.uk/festival THE KOSH IN THE STOREROOM Bending from the beautiful to the absurd ●●●●●
The Kosh, aka Siân Williams and Michael Merwitzer, have worked hard to create an atmospheric piece telling this tale of a dancing girl done wrong. Using props found in a storeroom they take us from her childhood to downfall at the hands of the ever-unseen playboy Artie.
Combining some beautiful movement from sole performer Williams, who plays showgirl Zoe, in many ways they’ve achieved an
SEA WALL Pray silence for an exquisite performance ●●●●●
Alex does not voice the cruellest words he ever spoke. We don’t actually hear the dreadful phrase he utters to his father-in-law. But we can imagine it. Playwright Simon Stephens is too subtle a craftsman to allow his central character to blurt it out; instead he pushes us carefully and confidently to the point where we need only fill in the dots. The theme of the playwright, whose Pornography was named best play in the recent Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland, is the impulse to believe in God and the more awesome prospect – as he would have it – that no God exists. The story told by Alex in this exquisitely realised 30-minute show from London’s Bush Theatre is an everyday story of young love, fatherhood and family bonding which Stephens booby-traps with a shockingly meaningless tragedy. Can the God we thank for life’s unfathomable beauty also be responsible for its inexplicable cruelty?
As theological arguments go, Stephens is not the first to ask the
question, but he weaves it into the flow of his narrative so subtly – a phrase here, a fragment there – that you almost don’t notice when the theme emerges. Much credit for this must go to actor Andrew Scott who, under the direction of George Perrin, gives a performance with an authority you’d want to call dazzling were it not so undemonstrative. Wearing workaday T- shirt and jeans, he brings a beguiling sense of spontaneity to the script, as if he too were hearing it newly minted, finding pockets of humour and bucket-loads of charm in his conversational delivery. He draws us compellingly into his breathtaking romance, the unexpected affection that grows for his oddball father-in-law in the South of France and the unconditional love for his daughter. All of which makes his change of fortune so much more brutal and the big questions about God that much more vivid. (Mark Fisher). ■ Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 16 Aug, times vary, £10–£11 (£5–£7).
64 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 13–20 Aug 2009
interesting theatrical oddity. The set is well-utilised and claustrophobic, showcasing the best of our leading lady’s considerable athletic prowess. However, in exchange for extended sections of often confusing movement and song, The Kosh have sacrificed some characterisation, plot and pace.
For every charming segment which swirls across the stage, there’s another which drags the pace back down to a plod. The mood swings from the sublime, such a graceful number depicting Zoe’s dance girl days, to the ridiculous, with some very cringeworthy dialogue tugging the plot along. This is clearly a talented company with a show that fails to exactly hit the mark, but which looks very pretty while it tries. (Siân Bevan) ■ Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until 31 Aug (not 17, 24), 1.30pm, £8.50 (£7.50).
SYLVIA PLATH – THREE WOMEN, THE FIRST REVIVAL Rare production of the poet’s play, with fine performances ●●●●●
There’s more than a touch of the poet and playwright herself in each of the three titular characters in Robert Shaw’s production of what was originally a radio play from 1962. The triumvirate of voices are those of a wife (Louisa Clein), a secretary (Neve McIntosh) and a student (Lara Lemon), interchanging and overlapping as they recount experiences with their bodies, fertility and society at large. What is striking about the production, most of all, is the strength of the performances, with each actress steadily increasing the intensity of the experiences they convey. The sense of an overwhelming rage, probably unexpressed to the world, and more articulate for being trapped in subjectivity is conveyed with guileful nuance, bringing Plath’s seething resentment of the trammelling patriarchy she faced to the surface with great lucidity. McIntosh, in
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particular, brings an awesome emotional energy to her reified office worker.
That said, as a theatrical experience, the piece still feels a bit like a radio play, a problem not at all helped by its Assembly Supper Room venue, an end stage with dodgy sightlines where a greater power might be found on the close proximity of an in-the-round presentation. (Steve Cramer) ■ Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 31 Aug (not 20), 11am, £11–£12 (£10–£11).
CERTAIN DARK THINGS Deft and involving presentation of social claustrophobia ●●●●●
Certain Dark Things tells the story of a brief and forbidden affair conducted under the Catholic dictatorship of Franco, and its repercussions as they continue to be felt by all involved decades later. The suffocating sense of a curtain-
twitching lack of privacy is deftly illustrated by the motif of communal laundry sessions, and by the in-the- round setting, which allows voices, knocks at the door and unexpected entrances to come from any of the four corners at any time. So repressed is the central character that it is a long time before the audience gets a chance to feel any sympathy with this tangled ball of awkwardness and other people’s projections.
The actors move effortlessly and
fluidly across the stage at all times in the production, creating a smoothly absorbing spectacle of a play. Their training in physical theatre is very much in evidence and the effective use of lines of movement across the stage means that even the literal staging of a love triangle does not seem too heavy- handed. Marred only by some unconvincing group dialogue and an overplaying of the many meaningful glances, this is a neatly executed and rewarding piece of theatre. (Laura Ennor) ■ Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 30 Aug (not 17), 9.05pm, £6.50–£12.50 (£9–£11).